A walk with Sidney Jackson #1

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When Sidney Jackson was keeper of Archaeology, Geology and Natural History at Cartwright Hall he edited a subscription journal called the Archaeology Group Bulletin. Although compiled over 50 years in the past it can still be read with interest today. I am impressed by the quality of both articles and the correspondence. Many contributors were concerned with local dry-stone walls and the interesting things that can turn up in or around them.

Loose rail posts preceded iron fences, and hinged gates, as a method of confining stock on farmland. Fig. 1 shows a drawing from the AGB.

Fig 1

Fig. 1

You can see how a wooden pole would fit into the slots to provide a barrier.  Both wooden poles and quarried stone posts were readily available in an area like West Yorkshire. You do occasionally still see residual loose rail posts today and I have provided an example (Fig.2) from Heaton Royds Lane, on the scenic route between Shipley and Heaton.

Fig 2

Fig. 2

Quite exciting objects can be collected to plug holes in field walls, and Fig.3 shows the base of a quern drawn by Sidney Jackson.


Fig. 3

Querns were stone devices used for grinding corn and were certainly employed in Britain from the Neolithic to the early Medieval period. They were ultimately replaced by wind or water mills which would grind everybody’s corn, at a price. It was suggested in the AGB that this quern base was from the Iron Age. I have never been fortunate enough to find one: in my experience old bricks or lumps of iron-making slag were more frequently used round Bradford.

Fig.4 shows a situation I have found involving a dilapidated dry-stone wall on the margin of Heaton Woods.

Fig 4

Fig. 4

On the right you can see the end of some perfectly ordinary masonry, consisting in all probability of Elland Flags wall stone which was widely quarried in 18th and 19th century Heaton. This wall stone conforms to, ‘respects’ is the archaeological term, a huge earth-fast boulder. This is not an isolated phenomenon but there is a linear arrangement of such boulders with a more modern wall built over them. The boulders consist of rounded gritstone and don’t show any obvious signs of dressing. Presumably they were glacial erratics which are not uncommon in this area. Boundaries consisting of large earth-fast boulders, like querns, were a feature of the Iron Age but I’m not claiming that I have been that lucky!

Derek Barker

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